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The Tempest review at St Paul’s Church, London – ‘summery Shakespeare’

Iris Theatre’s production of Shakespeare’s final play The Tempest takes the form of a gentle promenade in which the audience is seated at various points around St Paul’s Covent Garden’s churchyard, amongst its array of roses and hollyhocks.

With its intention to pay homage to the church’s architect Inigo Jones’s court masques, it’s an agreeable way to spend a summer evening, even if it only gently charms rather than enchants.

Daniel Winder’s staging feels a bit like the crazy patchwork of Trinculo’s jester’s costume. Caliban (Prince Plockey) is introduced in chains but the cruelty of his treatment by Prospero is underexplored. The use of the church itself for Miranda and Ferdinand’s betrothal masque is the production’s high point, a realm where the ‘true faith’ and paganism meet.

With her feline movements and mellifluous singing, Charlotte Christensen delicately mercurial Ariel is a highlight, an entirely believable agent of magic tricks, including oranges and tomatoes plucked from the air. Jamie’s Newall’s world-weary Prospero is bit of a mystery, though he tenderly conveys affection towards Miranda and Ariel. Joanne Thomson fares better as a sage Gonzalo than an overwrought Miranda, and Paul Brendan makes the most of the comedy that can be wrung out of the drunken, petulant Trinculo.

Design-wise, the costuming is mostly traditional cod-Jacobean and the courtiers’ shiny satiny outfits are rather ‘fancy dress’. Other productions of The Tempest have mined the colonial subtext and to play it largely straightforwardly as a fairytale is a valid interpretation, but it’s hard to ignore the feeling that something is missing.

Verdict
Solid summery Shakespeare that could benefit from a more pronounced point of view

Production

Production
The Tempest
Venue
St Paul's Church
City
London
Starts
June 20, 2018
Ends
July 28, 2018
Press night
June 26, 2018
Authors
William Shakespeare
Composer
Candida Caldicot
Director
Daniel Winder
Set
Mike Leopold
Lighting
Benjamin Polya
Costume
Anna Sances
Stage manager
Emily Humphrys
Production manager
Jake Evans
Cast includes
Paul Brendan, Charlotte Christensen, Reginald Edwards, Linford Johnson, Jamie Newall, Prince Plockey, Joanne Thomson
Producer
Iris Theatre
Running time
2hrs 45mins